'Foreign Agents', 'Aliens' or Journalists? All Should Apply! Following Recent Cases in Media Law at the European Court of Human Rights
S. van der Hof et al. (eds) Recht uit het hart. Liber Amicorum ter gelegenheid van het emeritaat van prof. dr. mr. Wouter Hins, hoogleraar mediarecht te Leiden (E.M. Meijers Instituut/Leiden University 2019). ISBN: 9789402813104
22 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019 Last revised: 28 May 2021
Date Written: February 5, 2019
This book-chapter served as an homage to Wouter (A.W.) Hins and as a contribution to his liber amicorum for the occasion of his elevation to professor emeritus of Media Law at Leiden University.
The paper is about a case that has been communicated by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR) in March 2017: "Ecodefense a.o. v. Russia, and 48 other applications". In this communication, the ECtHR especially asks Russia to respond to complaints by 61 NGOs. The applicants are challenging the Russian "Foreign Agents Act."
I look into comparative materials from the ECtHR's case law related to Freedom of expression (Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights - ECHR). The paper especially covers 4 cases that the ECtHR dealt with in the period 2015-2018 (3 Judgements and 1 Decision), and compares these to the Ecodefence a.o. case.
These earlier judgments and decisions shed light on the approach which the Court usually takes towards conflicts related to news media content production.
The paper considers a few roads that the communicated case against Russia could take. I argue that Article 10 ECHR (freedom of expression) is likely a viable trajectory in terms of the applicability of the European Treaty, in relation to the overall applications in Ecodefence a.o..
Further on, I outline and discuss the case files of Ecodefence that are available at the European Court. I also sketch how some other ECHR Articles are interlinked. The term “political activity” is central to the arguments raised in Ecodefence. I discuss separately how that term could be treated in light of the case law of the ECtHR about Article 16 of the ECHR at the end of this paper. In the conclusion, I sum up the remarks made especially on the Ecodefence case and address the importance of it advancing at the ECtHR.
Keywords: Human Rights, European Court, Foreign Agents Act, Russia, NGOs, Media Content Production Market, Cross-border Finance, Compulsory Registration, Political Activity, Dispute Resolution
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